ICRC position on internally displaced persons (IDPs)
The purpose of this document is to explain the ICRC's position on the issue of IDPs. It discusses the operational challenges of responding to the plight of IDPs, the best ways of protecting and assisting IDPs, and the ICRC's contribution to the policy debate on this issue.
The displacement of people within their own countries has been a recurrent problem in recent years. This, coupled with a better understanding of the severe plight endured by the millions affected, has resulted in growing concern within the international community. This concern is amply justified: all too often, internally displaced persons (IDPs) suffer extreme deprivation that threatens their very survival, and they are all too often exposed to considerable danger during their flight, while they are displaced and even upon their return or resettlement. The death toll among IDPs often reaches extreme proportions, particularly among physically weaker persons, such as children, the elderly or pregnant women. The hardship experienced by those left behind and by host communities further compounds the problem.
Internal displacement is frequently the consequence of violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) during armed conflict. When civilians flee a conflict zone, this is a good indication that the warring parties are indifferent to their protection or, worse, are deliberately targeting them. Every effort must be made to prevent such displacement. Wherever IDPs find themselves and whatever the reason for their displacement, they remain, in situation of armed conflict and other situations of violence, first and foremost civilians and, as such, are entitled to every protection afforded that category of individuals under IHL.
The role of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is to protect and assist persons affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence. T o that end, the ICRC takes direct and immediate action in response to emergency situations, while at the same time promoting preventive measures, such as the dissemination of IHL and its incorporation into national legislation. IDPs have, therefore, always been major beneficiaries of ICRC activities.